Shannon Airport Facilities

Questions (338)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

338. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the circumstances concerning an aircraft (details supplied) that arrived at Shannon Airport on 8 February 2021; the number of passengers and crew members who were travelling on the aircraft; the local hotels in which the passengers and crew were accommodated overnight; if Covid-19 tests were carried out in respect of these passengers and crew before they were allowed to enter Shannon Airport and to enter Ireland; the checks that were carried out to ascertain if weapons or munitions were being carried on the aircraft; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8304/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The landing in question was by a US military aircraft, with seven crew and no passengers on board. It had sought and received prior diplomatic clearance to land subject to our routine stipulations, including that it did not carry arms or ammunition. The US authorities have confirmed that this condition was met.

Sovereign immunity, a long-standing principle of customary international law, means that a State may not exercise its jurisdiction in respect of another State or its property, including State or military aircraft. This principle applies automatically to foreign State or military aircraft in the same way that it applies to Irish State or military aircraft abroad.

In terms of public health measures, I note that Statutory Instrument 44/2021 was the applicable regulation on that date and that, as set out in that Instrument, exempted travellers include "an aircraft pilot, other aircrew, maritime master or maritime crew who arrives in the State in the course of performing his or her duties.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs is not involved in and does not comment on accommodation arrangements for US military or official personnel transiting through Shannon.

Passport Services

Questions (339)

Holly Cairns

Question:

339. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the way in which those who need to travel for essential work but are not classed as essential workers can have their passport renewed at this time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8339/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Passport Service has paused processing of routine applications while Ireland is at Level 5 of the National Framework for Living with COVID-19. Passport Service staff have been temporarily reassigned to provide consular assistance for Irish citizens overseas.

The Passport Service continues to provide an emergency passport service for Irish citizens at home and abroad. The service is available for those who are required to travel due to the death or serious illness of a family member or because the applicant requires emergency medical treatment.

Applicants who require a passport for emergency purposes, or to travel for urgent reasons, should contact the Passport Service via our Customer Service Hub Webchat function on our website.

The Passport Service has a comprehensive plan in place to resume all services, in line with the National Framework for Living with COVID-19. When operations resume at Level 4, all applications received via Passport Online will be processed.

The Passport Service has a great deal of experience in dealing with peaks in demand, and we are confident that any backlog will be cleared quickly. When the Passport Service resumed operations in June 2020, the backlog was cleared in four weeks. It was similar in December 2020 with the majority of the backlog cleared within three weeks.

The Passport Service plans to resume processing of routine paper based applications such as Passport Express, Northern Ireland Passport Express and applications for Foreign Birth Registrations at Level 3 of the National Framework.

Consular Services

Questions (340)

Pa Daly

Question:

340. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if an application by a person (details supplied) will be approved. [8515/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The individual in question originally applied online via our Embassy in Singapore in late August 2020 for a Certificat de Coutume (CdC) to get married in the Philippines on 8 January 2021 to a Philippine national. The Statutory Declaration was witnessed by an official at our Embassy in Singapore on 15 September, and approval was granted by our Dublin office on 15 October.

The individual in question advised that he left Singapore in October 2020. On 18 January, he made a new application for a Certificat de Coutume to get married in Turkey on 4 March 2021. In this application, which was received on 21 January, he stated that he has no fixed intentions regarding his future domicile.

Under the 1986 Domicile and Recognition of Divorce Act, domicile needs to be determined. Domicile will therefore need to be established before a new Certificat de Coutume can be issued. My Department is in direct contact with the individual in question on this matter.

UN Security Council

Questions (341)

Réada Cronin

Question:

341. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Ireland’s seat on the UN Security Council and reputation on international aid will be used to secure the health of the interconnected world by spearheading and championing the swift distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine to poorer countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8834/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland is fully supporting efforts by the international community, including as an EU Member State, to ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines for all. The Government quadrupled funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2020, given its role as lead UN agency for health and co-host of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which has the COVAX facility as a centerpiece. COVAX is supporting 92 low and middle-income countries access Covid-19 vaccines.

Vaccine supply constraints remain an issue, particularly for low-income countries. In response to this, the Irish Aid allocation to global health will increase to at least €50 million in 2021, to include support for global equitable access to vaccines through WHO and the COVAX facility.

Also included in this is funding of €15 million to the Global Fund to end AIDS, TB and Malaria, and €3 million to Gavi - supporting our partner multilateral agencies, sustaining health systems and ensuring attention to other diseases including HIV and AIDS, Malaria and TB. Ireland also continues to support key partner multilateral agencies, such as UNICEF and multilateral development banks, who are also playing an important part in the global response to the pandemic.

While the World Health Organisation is leading the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN Security Council has a role to play in addressing the potential threats to international peace and security arising from the pandemic, as recognised in Security Council Resolution 2532 adopted last July. The Minister for Foreign Affairs plans to participate in a meeting of the Security Council on COVID-19 on 17 February.

Irish Embassies in partner countries will in the meantime be working alongside the WHO and other health partners to support the vaccine roll-out effort, which will face further challenges given limited health systems capacity in many countries.

Foreign Birth Registration

Questions (342)

Ossian Smyth

Question:

342. Deputy Ossian Smyth asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the status of an application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8859/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Passport Service has paused the processing of Foreign Births Registration applications as Ireland is at Level 5 of the National Framework for Living with COVID-19.

Applications that have been sent to the FBR team are being held securely and will be processed when normal services resume at Level 3. Foreign Births Registration, by its nature, can be a detailed and complex process, often involving official documentation related to three generations and issued by several jurisdictions. Prior to the introduction of the current restrictions, FBR applications were taking 12 to 18 months to process.

With regard to the specific application to which the Deputy refers, this was registered on 21 February 2020 and is on schedule to be processed, in date order of receipt, when FBR services resume.

Departmental Contracts

Questions (343)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

343. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contracts for public relations advice and consultancy entered into by his Department over the cost of €10,000 since January 2021; the nature of the contract; and the length of the contract in tabular form. [8892/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

My Department has not entered into any contracts over €10,000 for public relations and consultancy since January 2021.

Ministerial Communications

Questions (344)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

344. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if there has been any contact with his counterpart in the United States'. [8912/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Strengthening bilateral relations with the US is a priority for Ireland as set out in our Programme for Government, as well in our Strategy for the US and Canada (2019-2025). With each successive Administration in the White House and each successive US Congress, our bilateral relationship has been valued and strengthened, to the benefit of our people on both sides of the Atlantic.

We look forward to working with the new US Administration on the many global challenges facing the international community, from the pandemic to climate change to promoting peace and security, as well as on issues of particular importance to our bilateral relationship.

On Saturday 13th February last, I spoke with my counterpart in the US, Secretary of State Antony Blinken. This call offered a valuable opportunity to congratulate Secretary Blinken on his appointment and to reinforce the commitment of the Government to strengthening both our bilateral relationship and wider transatlantic relations. During the call, we discussed areas where Ireland and the US can work together, including through the EU and our membership of the UN Security Council. We also discussed important foreign policy issues as well as Brexit, Northern Ireland and the importance of protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

Looking ahead, we will continue to maintain close relations with the new Administration, Members of Congress, across the aisle, and contacts from across the political spectrum. This engagement extends to our contacts at federal, state, city and local levels.

Ireland has always maintained close relations with the US and will continue to do so, including through our Embassy in Washington D.C., our other diplomatic Missions across the US and through the US Embassy in Dublin.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Questions (345)

Duncan Smith

Question:

345. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence the number of maintenance and technician vacancies in 2019 and 2020; the number of applications received; the number of positions filled in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7909/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

It has not been possible to gather the required information in the turnaround time for PQs. I will revert to the Deputy when I am in a position to reply.

Air Corps

Questions (346)

Richard O'Donoghue

Question:

346. Deputy Richard O'Donoghue asked the Minister for Defence the amount spent on purchasing specialist fire service vehicles for the Air Corps fire services in 2019, 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8144/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

My priority as Minister for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service, is maintained to the greatest extent possible so as to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.

The Equipment Development Plan (EDP) published in June 2020, completed through extensive joint civil-military work, provides a comprehensive list of planned equipment projects by means of a five-year rolling plan. The EDP builds on the intentions set out in the White Paper in relation to equipment acquisition, modernisation and upgrade and has been developed to ensure that the Defence Forces have the major equipment platforms, ancillary equipment and force protection equipment to carry out their important roles both at home and overseas.

The Defence Forces operate a Crash Rescue Service based at Casement Aerodrome Baldonnel which is required for airfield operations. Details of the amounts spent on contracts awarded from 2019 to date for the renewal of specialist fire service vehicles for the Air Corps are set out in tabular form below:

Tabular Statement: Specialist Fire Service Vehicles for the Air Corps 2019 to 2021

Year

Item

Company

Amount Spent Inclusive of VAT

2019

4x4 RIFT Scania

High Precision Motor Products (HPMP) Ltd.

€332,100

2020

Rosenbauer Panther 6x6 Airport Fire Tenders

Rosenbauer UK Ltd

€1,815,000

2021 (to date)

N/A

N/A

Nil

A contract was placed in 2019 with High Precision Motor Products (HPMP) Ltd. under an Office of Government Procurement (OGP) Framework Agreement for the supply of a Rapid Intervention Fire Tender (RIFT) at €424,810.20 inclusive of VAT). In 2019 €332,100 (incl. VAT) was paid for the Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS) and gantry ladders associated with the fire tender. The remaining sum of €92,710.20 (incl. VAT) will be paid on delivery of the RIFT which is expected in March 2021. The delivery into service of the RIFT vehicle will augment the existing capability of the Air Corps Fire and Rescue Service at Casement Aerodrome Baldonnel.

In 2020 following an open tender competition a contract was awarded to Rosenbauer UK Ltd. for the supply of two (2) new Rosenbauer Panther 6x6 Airport Fire Tenders, due to be delivered by end of February 2021 to replace existing aging Airport 6x6 Fire Tenders. The total cost of these vehicles is €2.35m inclusive of VAT.

The expected service life of these types of appliances is 15-20 years. I am satisfied that, with these new acquisitions and the planning for future procurements, the Defence Forces continue to have the necessary modern and effective range of equipment available to them in order to fulfil all roles assigned to them by Government.

Defence Forces Veterans

Questions (347)

Mark Ward

Question:

347. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Defence the status of the Irish veterans' charter; and the number of meetings held between the Defence Forces, his Department and the two nominated veterans' organisations (details supplied). [8300/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

My Department formally recognises the two veterans’ organisations referenced by the Deputy as representing all former personnel, namely, the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) and Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann (ONE), the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel.

As part of the supports currently offered to retired members of the Defence Forces, my Department has Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in place with these associations which set out the services and financial supports that the Department provides.

I am aware that the associations have proposed a range of further supports that would be available to former members of the Defence Forces. My Department has engaged with them on exploring further these proposals.

In recent years both associations have received increases to their grant allocations. The programme for Government also contains a commitment to further develop the supports to veterans. My Department has secured funding under the Dormant Accounts Fund Action Plan 2020 to assist them with specific special projects and has also provided further supports in developing the network of centres.

My Department seeks to meet with the Veterans' Associations on at least four occasions per annum, at least one of which I attend. Whilst the Covid restrictions disrupted this schedule in 2020, I met the Associations by video link in November 2020 and a range of issues of interest to the Associations were raised.

Defence Forces Personnel

Questions (348)

Robert Troy

Question:

348. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Defence his plans to increase the compulsory Army retirement age to 60 given the current drive to re-enlist retired servicemen and women. [8324/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

Military life places unique demands on individuals and it is necessary that Defence Forces personnel are prepared to meet the challenges of all military operations. To this end, it is vital the age and health profile of personnel be such as to ensure that operational capability and effectiveness are not compromised in any way.

The age and fitness profile of the Permanent Defence Force was an issue of serious concern during the 1990's and was the subject of severe criticism in a series of external reports. One of the key areas identified for urgent action was the development of a manpower policy with an emphasis on lowering the age profile of Permanent Defence Force personnel.

As a result, new terms and conditions were introduced for personnel enlisting after 1 January 1994 and new contracts for enlisted personnel were for a period of five years’ service. Since that time, the maximum period of service has been extended out to twenty-one years for line Privates and Corporals.

In 2015, following an adjudication in the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for PDF members, Privates and Corporals in receipt of Tech Pay Group 3 or higher may be extended to age 50 subject to meeting certain criteria for continuance in service. A review of contracts of service for Line Corporals and Privates and Corporals in receipt of Technical Pay 1 and 2 was recommended.

An agreement was subsequently reached with PDFORRA in 2019 that all Privates and Corporals recruited post 1994, be allowed to continue in service to 31 December 2022 (or until they reach the age of 50), provided these personnel met certain criteria during the interim period, including medical grades and fitness tests. This agreement was subsequently extended to include post 1994 Sergeants, who also could continue in service to the same date, subject to their meeting agreed criteria in the interim period.

The High Level Plan- "Strengthening Our Defence Forces " provides for actions or projects to be undertaken to deliver on the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) recommendations. A project to consider options to tackle barriers to extended participation in the PDF (including the possibility of extending retirement ages for members of the PDF) is underway.

This project is divided into two phases. The first phase, focusing on reviewing mandatory retirement ages for Officers and the second phase to review contracts of service for enlisted personnel.

As this review is currently underway, it would be inappropriate to pre-empt any recommendations that may arise.

Under the terms and conditions of the scheme to re-enlist former PDF personnel introduced last April, individuals who wish to re-enlist will serve for a specific period and for a specific purpose which will involve the use of a particular skill or area of expertise which cannot currently be met through the use of existing military resources. Individuals will be required to be able to serve the duration of their contract within the age limits currently set, and additionally meet a range of general eligibility criteria including medical assessments to ensure they are capable of performing normal military duties.

Defence Forces Properties

Questions (349)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

349. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Defence if his Department will engage with Kildare County Council with a view to resolving the investigation into the dumping of material in the vicinity of Donnelly’s Hollow on the Curragh in order to prevent unnecessary wasting of funds should Kildare County Council progress the matter through the courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8699/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

I can confirm to the Deputy that, since this matter came to light, my officials have consistently engaged with the County Council with a view to resolving this matter. The Deputy can be assured that my officials will continue to engage with the local authority on same. I am advised that Kildare County Council has acknowledged that the environmental assessment conducted by my Department confirms there is no evidence that any environmental damage has been caused at the site in question.

Defence Forces Personnel

Questions (350)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

350. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel deployed in private and public nursing homes by county over the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8706/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

Whilst the Defence Forces are not a primary response agency for non-security related emergencies, as defined in the Framework for Major Emergency Management, they provide the fullest possible assistance to the appropriate Lead Department in the event of a natural disaster or emergency situation in its Aid to Civil Authority (ATCA) role. In this regard, the full spectrum of Defence Forces personnel and equipment, commensurate with operational requirements, is made available for deployments, within current means and capabilities, as the need arises.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Joint Task Force was established to coordinate the Defence Forces contribution to the whole-of-Government COVID-19 response. It has the authority to draw together, in a joint manner, the contribution of all of the elements of the Defence Forces – Army, Air Corps, Naval Service, Reserve, etc. This was provided for in a Defence Forces Regulation signed by and under the authority of the Minister for Defence.

The Defence Forces Joint Task Force is based in McKee Barracks and its priority from the beginning has been to provide support to the HSE, while retaining, at all times, a contingent capacity to provide Aid to the Civil Power support. The wide range of supports that the Defence Forces have provided to the HSE, as coordinated by the Joint Task Force during the COVID-19 crisis include:

- operation of the COVID-19 testing centre at the Aviva stadium;

- support for contact tracing efforts;

- transportation by the Air Corps of COVID-19 tests to Germany;

- collection of PPE from more than 260 cargo flights and the ongoing storage and distribution of this PPE to various HSE sites;

- support for HSE testing efforts including through deployment of Naval Service vessels to Dublin, Cork and Galway;

- PPE training to workers at Cork and Waterford harbours by Naval service personnel;

- provision of tentage and marshalling support at various HSE testing sites around the country;

- transportation of patients for testing;

- assistance with the fit out of temporary facilities for the HSE (for example, the HSE facilities at City West and the University of Limerick);

- production and assembly of PPE using 3D printing facilities; and

- the use of lands at Ballymullen Barracks as a COVID-19 testing facility and contact tracing hub.

In addition to supporting the HSE, the Defence Forces have also provided a broad range of supports to other Departments and Agencies. Provision of this support was also coordinated by the Joint Task Force. Examples include:

- Support has been provided to the National Ambulance Service through Defence Forces ambulance and crew supports along with tele-triage supports.

- Support to the Office of Government Procurement through assistance with storage and distribution of PPE.

- Support to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government through the use of lands at Sarsfields Barracks for the location of one of the National Temporary Body Storage Facilities. The Defence Forces were also on standby to provide support if required at the Dublin based National Temporary Body Storage Facility at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

More recently, at the request of the HSE, the Defence Forces have provided a range of non clinical and administrative supports in a number of residential care home facilities. The table outlined below provides the breakdown of the number of Defence Forces personnel deployed to provide supports in private and public nursing homes by county over the past 12 months up to 11 February 2021:

County Breakdown

Number of DF deployed (in man days)

Offaly

11

Meath

29

Cavan

8

Cork

480

Limerick

228

Clare

224

Total man-days

980

The Defence Forces are currently deployed to provide supports at two residential care homes in Cork.

Departmental Contracts

Questions (351)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

351. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence the contracts for public relations advice and consultancy entered into by his Department over the cost of €10,000 since January 2021; the nature of the contract; and the length of the contract in tabular form. [8887/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

My Department has not entered into any contracts for public relations advice and consultancy over the cost of €10,000 since January 2021.

Ministerial Communications

Questions (352)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

352. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence if there has been any contact with his counterpart in the United States. [8907/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

I have not had any contact to date with my Defence counterpart in the United States administration, Mr. Lloyd J. Austin III, the US Secretary of Defence.

Ministerial Correspondence

Questions (353)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

353. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education if concerns raised in correspondence by a person (details supplied) will receive a response; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7855/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

On Wednesday 17 February I confirmed that Leaving Certificate 2021 written examinations will proceed in accordance with the normal timetable, subject to public health advice, and that oral and practical examinations and coursework would run as close to normal as possible. I also announced that students will also have the alternative option of applying for grades accredited by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), to be known as SEC-Accredited Grades, which will be issued to students at the same time as the examination results. Students who receive grades from both processes will automatically be awarded the higher grade on a subject by subject basis.

This decision follows intensive engagement with education stakeholders, both bilaterally and through the Advisory Group on Planning for State Examinations 2021.

This decision announced ensures for every student a method to assess their learning and attainment at the end of their post-primary education and to progress to higher and further education, and the world of work

Putting in place both the examinations and a corresponding measure of SEC-Accredited Grades is essential to ensuring a fair system, having regard to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic and the loss of learning that has occurred for this group of students due to the interruption of in-person teaching and learning during the periods of school closure.

Students will be required to register for the traditional examinations and/or to receive SEC Accredited Grades. Registration for both will take place through an online Student Portal operated by the SEC. Details regarding registration will be announced as soon as possible.

The timetable for the written examinations in June will be published shortly by the State Examinations Commission. As far as possible, access to these examinations will be provided for very high risk students.

Schools will receive guidance, informed by public health advice, on organising examination centres for the June examinations.

Oral examinations will be held during the Easter holidays or shortly after. Practical examinations will be held in most of the subjects where these form a normal part of the examination. In some subjects the holding of practical examinations may not be possible for public health reasons and this will be advised as soon as possible. Guidance on projects will issue to schools and students shortly.

Guidelines and further information on the process of SEC Accredited Grades will be published in the coming days. This will include a full guide for schools and an explanatory guide for students.

The results of the traditional examinations and the SEC Accredited Grades process are intended to be issued in time for CAO Round 1 offers. Where students opt to receive SEC accredited grades and to take the normal examinations, they will be awarded the better grades across the two forms of assessment, on a subject by subject basis.

School Staff

Questions (354)

Marc MacSharry

Question:

354. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Education if there are plans to improve the work and pay conditions of caretakers working in primary and post-primary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7856/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I am keenly aware of the vital role contributed by secretaries and caretakers within school communities and I recognise the very important work done by these staff, and the other support staff in the running of our schools.

In recognition of their role, I have put special arrangements in place for this school year whereby schools will be funded to employ a replacement secretary or caretaker in the event that staff who are at very high risk of contracting serious illness from COVID-19 cannot work on the school premises. I have also extended the Employee Assistance Service to all school staff including caretakers.

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under grant schemes. Where a school employs a staff member to support those functions those staff are employees of individual schools and responsibility for terms of employment rests with the school.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department implemented the 2015 recommendations of an independent arbitrator. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period. This arbitration agreement covered the period up to 31 December 2019 and has been fully implemented.

The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a secretary or caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration has from 1 January 2019 been paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay.

Fórsa trade union has tabled a follow-on claim from the 2015 agreement. Officials from my Department, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and School Management Bodies have been engaging with Fórsa on the claim, most recently on 27th of October 2020 under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission.

At that meeting it was agreed that further discussions would be held under the auspices of the WRC with a view to assessing the individual elements comprising the totality of the union’s claims. It is noted that these WRC discussions are taking place within the context of recent Dáil comments concerning the regularisation of pay, conditions of employment and pension provision of school secretaries and caretakers.

I welcome and support the continued meaningful dialogue between the parties with a view to reaching an agreed outcome.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (355)

Joan Collins

Question:

355. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education the details of the plan to open a school (details supplied) as an autism specific school for the 2021-2022 school year; and if safe, socially distanced access to the building will be provided for a group in order to evaluate the building. [7870/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I am very pleased to have secured agreement to open a new special school at the location referred to by the Deputy. This is a much-needed development which will help to meet the demand for special school places in the area.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has identified that appropriate provision is currently required for approximately 40 special school places for students with autism and general learning disabilities in South Dublin.

This provision is required to be made available at the earliest possible date but no later than the beginning of the 2021/22 school-year.

While the initial provision of 40 placements is intended to provide for those students identified by the NCSE, it is also intended that any remaining placements will be made available to children in South Dublin with complex needs that require special school placement.

The NCSE will determine the staffing level for the school in line with normal procedures.

My Department will also consider whatever other supports are necessary to ensure the school is in a position to cater for the needs of these students upon enrolment.

I can assure the Deputy that my Department is working with the Patron to advance the arrangements for the opening of the new school.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (356)

Seán Canney

Question:

356. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Education the way in which mainstream schools can apply for a support programme for special classes in order that pupils can access five hours of special education per week for four weeks given the application cannot be found on the website of her Department and has not been sent to schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7871/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department recently announced an In-Person Supplementary Programme to support the education or care needs of primary and post primary pupils with complex needs. Full information including application forms has been provided to all schools.

This programme of in-person support is intended to supplement the teaching and learning provided by the student’s school and alleviate the impact of this period of school closure through the provision of 5 hours per week in-person teaching or care support to be delivered in homes.

Application forms and information are available through schools who are in the process of contacting the families of eligible pupils to assist them with the application process.

General guidance for Parents and Teachers/SNAs, information on the schemes terms and conditions, including Covid-19 guidance, is available at the following link: www.gov.ie/en/service/865df-in-person-supplementary-programme/ .An allocation of five hours per week of home-based teaching or care supports will be made available to eligible pupils for four weeks.

The support programme must be delivered outside of the normal school day (i.e. evenings and weekends), so that the student can continue to engage as fully as possible with the teaching and learning provided by their school.

The program cannot be delivered remotely or in the school building.

Any unused hours can be delivered to families at any time before 30 April 2021, including during the Easter holidays.